Assessment, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Political Participation, Professional Development, Projects, Required Documents, Teachable Moments, Teaching Tips

Teaching Controversial Topics… like abortion laws

 

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As I scroll through social media, it’s hard to miss that Georgia and Alabama have recently passed the nation’s strictest abortion laws. So, naturally, when students walk in they want to know what I think.

I think that certain factions are trying to overturn Roe v. Wade (my standard response, which my students understand.

I’m not about to discuss my views because in my classroom, it’s not relevant.) I will not discuss this right at the beginning of my class because I need time to get to know my students. This is why I do my Civil Liberties and Civil Rights unit at the end of my class. When discussing the 2nd amendment or abortion case law as civil liberties, I need my students to know the procedures and be comfortable in the classroom. In my classroom, opinion is not relevant. You can have your opinion, but we aren’t about to debate gun rights or abortion. My job is to give you information about the Constitution, how to find relevant and trustworthy sources, and teach you how to develop an educated argument.

I’m going to assume that this issue will continue and have already started to consider how I will address it with my students next year. Here are some I have collected to help with #1 and #2 on the 5 ways to improve your practice. If you are curious about #4, I discuss it in The New York Times Op-Ed in AP Government.

  • This USA Today article gives information on the states’ abortion laws. The quantitative analysis could be a great warm up to discuss federalism (Unit 1)
    • How do states have the ability to pass laws that differ from others based on Supreme Court cases?
  • Discussing the sides of abortion in relation to factions and Federalist 10. Abortion will likely be a constant source of division because there are so many factions within the argument.
  • A great source for teachers to learn is Body Politic from Oyez. It features Roe v. Wade, Casey v. Planned Parenthood (and Justice O’Connor’s famous undue burden standard), Gonzales v. Carhart, and Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt.
    • In my classroom, I skip over Gonzales because of the content. Roe v Wade is a required case, Casey sets a different standard, and Whole Women’s Health is the case I was at the Supreme Court for so I know a lot about it. 
  • The Future of Abortion Laws: “Two leading voices from organizations on different sides of today’s biggest debates over reproductive rights and abortion laws—Catherine Glenn Foster of Americans United for Life and Dr. Kelli Garcia of National Women’s Law Center—join host Jeffrey Rosen to explore the key cases making their way up to the Supreme Court. Garcia and Foster also share their views on landmark abortion precedent like Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and the more recent case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, and predict how precedent might affect the outcomes of challenges to pending abortion laws at the federal level and in states like Louisiana, Tennessee, and Mississippi.” The Constitution Center.
    • I love the Constitution Center so much. The podcasts show both sides and have a very educated discussion based on law.
  • FiveThirtyEight Politics
    • This podcast goes through political ideology, polling, how cases go through the Court system, and the 2020 election. I would assign this to listen to at home or listen to it in class so that I am available to answer questions since I am the content expert.
  • The Words We Live By by Linda Monk
    • First of all, I love this book. Secondly, pages 222-224 has a great explanation of abortion under the 14th amendment.

 

With all controversial topic, knowing your kids and having your kids know procedures in your class is super important.

I plan for the comments that get us off track or may be inflammatory. My standard response is, “I appreciate your opinion, but we need to stick to the facts and get back on track.” I may not appreciate their opinion, but I want to keep my classroom a place where students can make mistakes and learn.

How do you navigate controversial topics in your AP Government class?

 

Assessment, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Projects, Required Documents

Tyson Timbs and a 2012 Land Rover LR2 v. State of Indiana… A Moot Court

It has begun. We’ve started our week of deep diving into Street Law’s Winter SCOTUS in the classroom case, Tyson Timbs and a 2012 Land Rover LR2 v. State of Indiana. This is the final exam for my AP Government class as well as my accelerated 8th graders. I have discussed how I do this in a previous post. This is how I’m doing it for this year!

We end our semester in AP Government with Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Since this case was argued November 28, the media is fresh and there is a lot of information out there. It’s in the news, it’s on podcasts, it’s part of our everyday lives.

This is how the last week and a half goes:

Preface: I’ve given them case and assignment before to allow them to look it over and decide what they will want to do or what they will be successful at. I’ve developed these roles because I know students show their knowledge in different ways. It’s an ever developing project as I get feedback from my students.

Day 1/2: Listening to oral arguments and discussing what we hear.  I started to write down the cases as they were mentioned, do a bit of research to see if they were worth a look by the students, and list them on the board. (I also get for graduation robes so the students can have robes and be a bit more official)

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Related cases:

  • McDonald v. Chicago (HELLO required Supreme Court case)
  • Bennis v. Michigan
  • von Hofe v. United States
  • US v. Bajakajian
  • Austin v. US
  • Kokesh v. SEC
  • US v. Halper
  • Van Oster v. Kansas

Vocabulary to Know:

  • in rem
  • in personam
  • civil forfeiture
  • stare decisis

 

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Day 3 (Block Day) Full practice exam– not related, but I want one last exam before they leave so I can see where they are at and personalize review assignments for the spring AP test.

Day 4,5: Research case, amicus briefs (example from SCOTUSblog), related cases, etc. I like to do a few days in class so they have each other and me, the content “expert”. There is also a podcast from First Mondays called “8,000 pounds of shark fins”. (Even though the actual case is called United States v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins. Yes, that is real. There is also a John Oliver clip, however I don’t show it in class because… well, we all know John Oliver…

Day 6: Finalize papers and turn in. Run through what to expect with Moot Court. I look through all papers that night to ensure quality before the moot court date.

Day 7: Moot Court (It’s our final exam day and we have 90 minutes)

I will update as we move forward, but wanted to give an overview of what I’ll be doing the next few weeks!

 

Update:

Man, this was fun! I even had a student come up with their own media company to live tweet the case.

 

Things I will change for next semester:

  1. As much as I trust my students, there was an issue of misuse of technology and a student tweeting something with inappropriate language tied to our class hashtag. I had it immediately removed, but it taught me a valuable lesson.  Next time, I will review appropriate use of technology as it relates to using class hashtags and have a set punishment for. It is the unfortunate byproduct of using social media in a classroom. Lesson learned.
  2. Because I had my 8th graders do this as well, they came up with the idea to write a newspaper as they watched! {Twitter wasn’t an option}5th hour
  3. One class got off topic and the Justices were asking irrelevant questions. I need to be better at preparing them as to what to ask.
  4. The Justices in a few classes were on a mission to be tough. Next semester, I will be more specific with what they need to do. I caught one class and reminded the Justices that they are to let the lawyers answer their questions and to not try to trick them.

 

All classes were unanimous in their decisions and had so much fun!

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We had to pack a Court because of class size. 
Assessment, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Interactions Among Branches of Government, Projects

Supreme Court Hand Turkeys

It’s the day before Thanksgiving and our school is hosting a blood drive. This means sparse classes and excited students. Yesterday, I assigned them a Supreme Court case from the list I made so they could prepare for Supreme Court Dating next week. {My students loved the Bureaucratic Speed Dating we did and last year appreciated the Supreme Court speed dating because they were able to get a lot of info from it!} With the new cases, I want them to have a firm understanding of the case. It’s an easy assignment, it’s fun, and it’s awesome to see what they create! Hand Turkeys assignment.

To really get the cases, we will draw them, talk about them (Supreme Court speed dating), and write about them. I loved the way these turned out! 

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Foundations of American Democracy, Interactions Among Branches of Government, Political Participation, Professional Development

My favorite podcasts for AP Government

I absolutely love podcasts! I can listen while I’m driving or out for a walk. I love having my students listen to them as well. I often assign them outside of class, but sometimes we will listen to them if they are short and meaningful. It’s also helpful for my auditory learners or for students that just need a bit of extra information to really “get it”. The green are ones I listen to in class or assign for extra knowledge on a subject! The red are for my own personal knowledge and growth. 

Here are my favorite podcasts for AP Government!

  • Constitutional– I use this one in class and for my personal knowledge.
  • We the People– I have to admit, I love Jeffrey Rosen. And when he followed me on Twitter one day, I about died. THIS is a podcast I have my students listen to because it presents both sides from a scholarly view point. It has been especially amazing for the redesign. I highly recommend this! 
  • The Daily– I listen to this daily. Each day on my way to work. Like clockwork. 
  • Teaching American History– with titles such as “How to Read Federalist #10” , many AP teachers jump for joy. Let’s be honest, we all need to brush up on some of our document knowledge. This is a great resource for teachers who don’t want to be caught unaware! 
  • More Perfect I love using this in class. More specifically, they have a great one on Citizen’s United which can be used with my lesson on the required case. There are 3 seasons and I’ve found they are easy listening. 
  • PBS News Hour- quick, easy, informative, and part of my Alexa morning routine. 
  • Ain’t No Free Lunch– I met Danielle at my Street Law summer and really loved listening to her talk. Her and her friend, Taikein look at current/past issues. I appreciate hearing different points of view because it makes me a better teacher and better citizen. Plus, I am working on expanding my resources so that all students feel represented. And my students love the back and forth. 
  • Slow Burn– Nixon’s Watergate. Clinton’s impeachment. So enthralling and something I listen to so I can strengthen my history knowledge. 
  • Up First– The news from NPR in 10 minutes. I recommend to students who want to listen to the news and keep up. They can listen to it on the way to school or work. 
  • The Wilderness– I started to listen to Pod Save America awhile ago on the recommendation of a friend, but soon found it to be not up my alley. I decided to give this a try because of it’s look at what happened to the Democratic Party in the 2016 and what they need to change. It’s like an autopsy and it’s refreshingly honest. This is a podcast I listen to for my own personal knowledge.  From the website: “The Wilderness is a documentary from Crooked Media and Two-Up about the history and future of the Democratic Party. Pod Save America’s Jon Favreau tells the story of a party finding its way out of the political wilderness through conversations with strategists, historians, policy experts, organizers, and voters. In fifteen chapters, the series explores issues like inequality, race, immigration, sexism, foreign policy, media strategy, and how Democrats can build a winning majority that lasts.”

 


Tell me, what are your favorite podcasts and how do you use them?

Assessment, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Interactions Among Branches of Government, Professional Development

Moot Court Assessments…Beyond Multiple Choice

After I attended the Street Law Institute in 2016, I started to really look at how I assessed my AP Gov kids. Sure, multiple choice is important, as is learning to write FRQ’s but I wanted to really assess what they learned in my class.

Enter Moot Court and changing the way I look at AP.

Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely use multiple choice and writing for assessing. However, I struggled with giving a final exam that didn’t really match what I wanted to see. I wanted to see the application of the knowledge.

This will be my 3rd year doing it, and I’m already excited for it!

First, I pass out the Supreme Court Mock Trials instructions. I use current cases that I get from Street Law. Last year, we used Carpenter v. USNIFLA v. Becerra, and Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. I liked being able to use them in conjunction with the oral arguments because of the news stories in current times. It got the students more involved! Even though the sheet requires the lawyers to write a paper, I let them know it’s more of notes for their oral essay in front of the Court. They don’t actually turn anything in.

I give students a choice as to their role. It has worked out in the past because you have students who do not want to speak, but like the social media aspect. You have students that try new things. {I used this letter for my re-certification for National Boards and it still get me every time. As teachers, we wield a power greater than anything, the power to get kids to believe in themselves}

Throughout the course of the time I allot for this project, we listen to oral arguments {yes, we listen to the full oral argument}. I use oyez.org because as we listen, student can read the transcript and see who is talking. We watch news clips that students find. We immerse ourselves in that world and it covers everything we learned. We look at the Constitution, at the amicus briefs submitted by interest groups, and precedent cases. Each year is a bit different as each class is a bit different.

The day of is always the best. I require students to dress up for Court. I take this very seriously. We do it on a block day to allow for full time. Here is the breakdown of the roles:

Chief Justice: This person runs the show. Just like Chief Justice John Roberts, they are in charge of the introduction, the timing, and reigning in any issues. They also get to use the gavel that I got from the Supreme Court.

Justices: Are responsible for asking questions, knowing their stuff, and making sure the lawyers do too.

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The lawyer present their case in front of the Court. They have to be ready for anything, and after listening to the actual oral arguments, they are. This is the only role that does not require a written paper to be turned in because they are essentially giving an oral essay foe 20-30 minutes. Here is an example of what a lawyer wrote up to start off their case.

Lastly, we have the clerks. There are students who don’t want to speak but still want to be involved. The clerks write a paper, but they also live Tweet during the case. We use our class hashtag as well as #scotusintheclassroom to it’s easy for me to find the information. If you don’t use Twitter, it’s easy to adapt this to writing articles for newspapers. One year, I had a conservative media and liberal media. We had discussed the biases each media had on the particular case and it was their chance to apply it.

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This is my TweetDeck that I keep open during oral arguments for easy grading

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We invited our Accelerated Middle School to witness Carpenter v. US

First semester, we have the luxury of doing two because we have more time. Second semester, with the AP test, means we can only fit in one. This is the primary reason I do Civil Liberties and Civil Rights last in my units.

I have also done this with my on-level classes and my accelerated 8th grade class!

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This year NIFLA v. Becerra, lawyers presenting their case.

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Trump v. Hawaii and Korematsu v. United States

“The President of the United States possesses an extraordinary power to speak to his fellow citizens and on their behalf.” Chief Justice John Roberts, majority opinion.

“ignoring the facts, misconstruing our legal precedent, and turning a blind eye to the pain and suffering the Proclamation inflicts upon countless families and individuals, many of whom are United States citizens.” –Justice Sonia Sotomayor, dissent in Trump v. Hawaii

One of the most exciting things about Teaching AP Government and Politics is that there is always new examples to illustrate how the Constitution is interpreted. This Supreme Court term, the justices explored the executive order signed by President Trump regarding the following questions (cited from Oyez):

  1. Are the plaintiffs’ claims challenging the president’s authority to issue the Proclamation reviewable (“justiciable”) in federal court?
  2. Does the president have the statutory authority to issue the Proclamation?
  3. Is the global injunction barring enforcement of parts of the Proclamation impermissibly overbroad?
  4. Does the Proclamation violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution?

The Supreme Court reached the conclusion in a 5-4 decision that the President’s Proclamation No. 9645 is a lawful exercise of the president’s statutory authority and does not violate the Establishment Clause.

Within teaching this issue, it is important to stick to the Constitutional issues. Often times, these cases can stir up emotions. However, I have found that within researching primary sources (including the Constitution), if the conversation is steered toward the interpretation of those sources, we can take some of the emotion out of the argument. It is understood that every classroom is different and that you know your students best.

I absolutely love podcasts, as well as having my students listen to them in class or as an out of class assignment. Often times, these primary sources or cases an be a LOT to deal with, even as teachers. Having podcasts, such as the Constitution Center {which the new AP Redesign uses} is helpful to chunk in out and help with the complicated legal issues.

Street Law has a lot of great resources and I recently found one on the travel ban. As I was researching, I also read an article regarding Korematsu v. United States. Both sides brought up this case and the Supreme Court tossed out the 1944 decision. As a result, Radio Lab reprised the podcast, American Pendulum on the Korematsu case (listed below). Since both the Solicitor General and Mr. Katyal (for Hawaii) brought this case up in oral argument, and the Supreme Court cites it, it is a great way to bring in judicial history, as well as a comparison of presidential powers as it relates to national security. While there are clear differences between the two cases, it is relevant to the study of history. The National Constitution center has a great article in their blog as well. 

Pointing students to nonpartisan (as possible) resources, digestible primary sources, and encouraging questions produces conversations where students can understand the complexity of the Constitution, as well as the historical implications of decisions of the Supreme Court.

Lesson Ideas for Civil Liberties and Civil Rights [CR3}:

  • Socratic Discussion: Evaluate the Supreme Court’s decision to include Korematsu in the discussion in Trump v. Hawaii
  • Argumentative Writing Prompt: Defend or refute the Supreme Court’s decision to throw out the Korematsu decision 74 years after it was upheld.

Resources:

Constitution Center Podcast- The Supreme Court Considers the Travel Ban Case

Korematsu Institute

Podcast- Radio Lab More Perfect: American Pendulum {Podcast on Korematsu)

Argument Activity in Korematsu (A good warm up or quick activity)